Uber: Our poaching tactics 'likely too aggressive'

Gett, a black car service in NYC, says Uber tried to lure away its drivers by using dirty tricks. But Uber denies accusations of "denial of service"-style attacks.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick at LeWeb 2013
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick at LeWeb 2013 Stephen Shankland/CNET
Uber is no stranger to controversy, thanks to its outspoken co-founder, Travis Kalanick, and unapologetic surge-pricing tactics.

Here's the latest: Rival black Car app Gett claims that Uber has used a "denial of service"-style attack to recruit away some of its drivers.

Gett runs a similar operation to Uber in New York. The difference is that Gett charges a flat fee during peak times, unlike Uber's surge-pricing model. Uber has made headlines in the past for having its rates soar during bad weather and holidays .

According to Gett, about a dozen customers ordered almost 200 rides from its competitor's service over three days last week, then canceled them -- some when the driver had nearly reached the pickup destination. The company then cross-referenced the customers' names on LinkedIn and Twitter and determined they are Uber employees. Since they had the drivers' phone numbers as part of the ride transaction, they then texted the drivers, urging them to instead drive for Uber, Gett said.

Rich Pleeth, a spokesperson for Gett, said the company is now looking at new models for the technology in which drivers' phone numbers would not be shared with the customers. Pleeth declined to comment on whether or not the company would be taking legal action.

For its part, Uber admits the tactic was "likely too aggressive," in a statement provided to CNET:

Our local teams can be pretty determined when spreading the word about Uber and how our platform opens up new economic opportunities for drivers. Members of our New York team made requests to generate leads of independent contractors but then immediately canceled seconds later. It was likely too aggressive a sales tactic and we regret the team's approach to outreach of these drivers. But to be clear there was no time spent by the providers, as the requests were canceled immediately and Uber did pay cancellation fees for these requests. We have messaged city teams to curtail activities that seek lead generation by requesting transportation services.
Uber spokesperson Andrew Noyes also emphasized to CNET that none of the drivers' time was wasted on the road, as the Uber employees canceled the rides "seconds later" and also paid cancellation fees. "Regarding their claim of a 'denial of service' attack. Untrue," he said in an e-mail. We don't know who's telling the truth, and perhaps only the drivers really know.

Gett has in the past run ads calling out its competitors for surge-pricing, which is probably a not-so-subtle dig at Uber. As for the question that the stunt could be some form of payback? Pleeth denies any such indirect call-out. "That ad was just a factual thing," he said. "We didn't mean to offend anyone at all."

 

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